What is it about that week that won’t go away? It’s like kissing someone on a drunk Summer’s evening and waking up with her fragrance on your wrist the next day.
It shouldn’t be something that can be put into words. There aren’t the words. You know what? I felt grateful. Grateful for being made to feel young again. Grateful for feeling the newness of something, for being uncynical and open to the experience. I might have been 24. Normally before I go away I have a clear picture of what I expect but this time I just went and let it happen. Even as we arrived I had half forgotten that I was arriving in Romania, flying over a huge sea of clouds with various crests and peaks and the sun bright and then moments later pink as we dropped beneath the layers of grey. 5 days later I was still in overdrive, my consciousness completely open to whatever was coming next, trying to put off going home, staying up as late as I could on the last night to absorb the last snapshots and voices of Bucharest and then at home, hungover and exhausted I felt like I’d woken from a long and intense dream, those ones which you don’t want to let go, where you hope somehow you’ll slip back into unconsciousness and rejoin the story before it’s too late. And the memory wouldn’t go away. For so so long I’ve pined for the intensity of the experience of youth but I swear this was its equal. The rise in my chest, the warmth in my eyes, the intensity of memories repeated over and over of people met, places seen, journeys taken. All of it like a burning passion. Like a teenage crush.
Take me back.
Now I’m looking at teaching jobs in Bucharest but how would it compare? A holiday romance is very different from a proper relationship. It’s the old ‘Carpe Diem’ part of me whispering in my ear. ‘Make the most of it while you can. One day you’ll be that bald guy knocking in the posts of the windbreak on the beach while your companion smooths out the blanket and a little bundle with wide eyes looks on. Not long. Not long now.’
“Live! Live the wonderful life that is in you! Let nothing be lost upon you. Be always searching for new sensations. Be afraid of nothing. . . . A new Hedonism— that is what our century wants.” (The Picture of Dorian Gray)
The signs are there. A couple of months ago I spent £35 on a bar of soap. Not just any old soap but Taoist soap, a caramel coloured bar with an Eastern symbol printed on its side. There is some proof on the ever reliable library of the internet that Taoist soap can help reduce hair loss and in some cases even help hair growth. My God. For the first time in my life I’ve started spending money on a decent haircut and now part it so that I can brush it over to one side, an ill disguised comb over.
But I reckon I carry it off. Looking at myself in the mirrors in the flat I’ve really started to notice how thin it is and the knowledge is there that one day for certain I will look like Nick downstairs. Still a fair bit on the sides but nothing on top. I consider middle age and I consider life. How soon will it be til I’m 50? Then how long does it take to get to 60? It gets quicker. I think of Dad who seems to be fighting it at 78. Be grateful, I say, for everything I’ve had and for everything to come. There’s so much more.